The week in beer: Jan 9 – Jan 15

Bit of a mixed bag at the beginning of 2012. I sampled some more of my Christmas gift beers, went to Craft Beer Co. and The Old Fountain. Of course I also had the opportunity to try Thornbridge’s sherry cask-aged (3 years!) version of their Bracia Old Ale, which sort of put all the other beers I sampled last week in the shade – but I covered this separately, as you see.

Jai Alai IPA

On the international front, I finally got my taste buds around the much-talked-about Jai Alai IPA from Cigar City Brewing. Since I obsessively follow London beer bars on Twitter, I know that all of them make sure to mention when they’ve got this one on, like it is a big sales argument. And now I understand why – this is a hefty Double/Imperial IPA (ABV 7.5) with lots of fruit on the nose and tounge: mango and pineapple predominantly, with slightly sour notes making me think of those fruits as unripe. The fruit gives way to a strong resiny hoppiness and an ever-so-slightly smoky aftertaste. I know Cigar City makes lots of variations on the Jai Alai (how about a juniper/cedar-aged one, or one flavoured with acai berries and mango?) and I’d be really keen to try them too if they ever show up on these shores. In comparison the Southern Tier IPA at first felt a bit flat, but I just had to get used to the fact that it was just a different take on the genre. The high ABV (6.9) does not come through at all as much as it does in the Jai Alai (or maybe those 0.6 percentage units really make a big difference) – the Southern Tier IPA feels like a much lighter, more workmanlike IPA where the malt is more in balance with the hops. There’s a clear bread-and-butter taste, and where the Jai Alai has unripe fruit, Southern Tier goes for overripe, with quite sweet apple, orange and tropical flavours. All in all a very smooth drink. I’m a big fan of Southern Tier and this did not disappoint.

During the week I also cracked open a Mikkeller from my cellar, Santa’s Little Helper 2010 (ABV 9.1) – so it’s been cellaring for about a year. You can tell this is a good beer for cellaring – sweet (molasses, honey) and spicy (is that cardamom?) with some sweet pastry/cookie dough things going on – but I wished I had waited for longer as it ended far too quickly, all mouth and hardly any aftertaste at all. Still – it’s pretty good while it’s in the mouth, that’s for sure.

In terms of UK beer I’ve now gone through all my beers from the Beer Club of Britain selection I got for Christmas – and as I feared it was rather underwhelming. Ghost Ship (ABV 4.5) from Adnams was pretty meh despite being dry-hopped, and Ivanhoe from Ridgeway (ABV 5.2) was so balanced as to lack any character. Bishop’s Farewell from Oakham (ABV 5.0) was better but still what I would describe as more interesting than really good: they use a mix of wheat and barley malt which makes the beer very bready, and while the hop character is not that pronounced it has a nice, long, dry finish. My favorite so far besides the Stocking Filler is Joseph Holt’s Maplemoon, which at ABV 3.8 is an eminently sessionable bitter, not at all extreme but the maple syrup makes it quite flavourful – the maple comes through pretty clearly, in my mind, and gives the beer a nice sweet, raisiny aftertaste. Not exactly a flavour bomb but very charming in its own way.

Overall, the beers I had while out and about were much more interesting than what the Beer Club guys put together: Rapture (ABV 4.6) from Magic Rock is a fine red ale which also has that bread-and-butter sourdough flavour I like so much, plus resiny-bordering-on-sour hops that last – and a lovely red colour, a must in a Red Ale! The Dark Star Smoked Porter (ABV 5.4) was a fine smoked porter but I struggled to find something that set it apart – there was a subtle wood/peat flavour there that might grow on you if you have a couple of pints. And the Whitechapel Weizen (ABV 4.5) from Brodie’s was a huge hit: a very odd, very hoppy and tart weissen, but still with that unmistakeable bread/citrus flavour from the wheat, along with some banana bread in the background. Very complex, very drinkable – I’ll definitely have this again.

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Posted on January 18, 2012, in Feature, Review and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. The Jai Alai sounds delicious, I’ll keep an eye out.

  2. They’ve had it at Bolaget as a limited import the once, I think. So there’s a precedent!

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